Wedding cake: LEMON

Lemon drizzlesFor the wedding cake I made, there were three round tiers measuring 6″, 9″ and 12″ in diameter. Harri had requested that the top two tiers be lemon and the bottom tier be chocolate, so after much testing of recipes, here’s the lemon cake I ended up using.

Each tier was a three layer cake, and each layer was baked separately (as opposed to having baked one cake and cut it into three layers). The lemon cake was essentially three lemon drizzle cakes (I used Tana Ramsay’s recipe) stacked on top of one another and separated by a thickened version of Delia’s lemon curd.

As I only had one tin of each size, I baked the first layers of the 6″ and 9″ cakes at the same time, followed by the second and the third. The recipe below makes enough batter for a single 6″ and 9″ layer, however you’ll need to multiply it by 3 if you’re making an entire wedding cake. Otherwise, if you split the batter from the recipe below between 3 round 8″ tins, you’ll come out with a rather grand three-tiered cake, worthy of any birthday party.

LEMON CAKE

IngredientsWhat you’ll need

For the cake

395g unsalted butter, softened
395g caster sugar
7 eggs
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
395g self-raising flour

For the drizzle

juice of 2 ½ lemons
150g caster sugar

Begin by preheating the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F. Grease your tins and line with parchment paper.

Then, in a large bowl, beat the butter until it’s creamy (especially if it’s still a bit chilled), then add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.

Add the lemon zest and flour and mix until fully incorporated.

Divide the batter between your tins so that it reaches the same height in each, then bake for between 40 and 60 minutes (test to see when a skewer comes out clean to decide when they’re ready).

Once you pull them out of the oven, let them cool in their tins for 5 minutes. While they’re cooling, combine the lemon juice and caster sugar for the topping.

Creaming butterTurn the cakes out upside down* onto a wire rack, pierce the surface (or what used to be the bottom of the cake) at regular intervals with a small sharp knife, then drizzle the cake with the topping while still warm. Leave to cool completely.

*The reason you pour the topping over the bottom of the cake rather than the top is because the top is the side you’ll eventually slice off when you level the cakes (the bottom maintains a nice uniform shape from the tin). If you’re baking a single three-tier celebration cake, consider leaving one layer right side up on rack and making it the top layer of your cake.

LEMON CURD

If you’re making a wedding cake, the first set of volumes will make enough curd to go between the three layers of your 6″ and 9″ tiers. If you’re making an 8″ three layer cake, the second set will make enough for you.

What you’ll need (for the 6″ and 9″ tiers of a wedding cake)

zest and juice of 7½ large lemons
550g golden caster sugar
15 large eggs, lightly beaten
375g block butter
5 sheets gelatin (optional*)

What you’ll need (for a three-tier 8″ cake)

zest and juice of 2½ large lemons
183g golden caster sugar
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
125g block butter
1 ⅔ sheet gelatin (optional*)

*All the gelatin does is make your curd a bit thicker. If you’re making a wedding cake (which has to sit out all day and look as tidy as possible), I’d definitely recommend using it, but if it’s just a birthday cake you’ll be having at home, there’s probably no need.

What to do

IMG_1407If you plan to use gelatin, place the gelatin sheets in a small bowl, just covered with water, and let sit.

Place a bowl over a pan of boiling water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and add the lemon zest, lemon juice, caster sugar, eggs and butter.

Stirring occasionally, leave over the heat until thickened (this should take about 25-30 minutes for the single 8″ cake and may take up to 1 hour 30 minutes for the larger batch). Once the curd no longer appears to be getting any thicker, if you’re not using gelatin, remove it from the heat.

If you are using gelatin, take the saturated sheets from the bowl of water (try not bring any extra water with them), and add them to your curd. Stir for another couple of minutes until dissolved, then remove from the heat.

Leave the curd to cool completely (ie. over several hours or overnight) and once everything is at room temperature, spread between the layers.*

Icing dam*If it’s a wedding cake you’re making, you’ll need to have levelled your layers first. This simply involves measuring and marking your cakes at the appropriate height (my layers were 1¼” or 3¼cm thick) and slicing off the un-level top. For the wedding cake I also used an icing dam, which was essentially a ring of buttercream on the outer edge of the cake to stop the curd bleeding out of the cake.

And that’s it!

Wedding Cake 101

Wedding cake

Wedding cakeSo anyone who’s been anywhere near me over the past three months will probably know that I’ve been preparing to make a wedding cake (and will most likely have been force fed tester cakes in the process). Well the wedding arrived last weekend, as did the wedding cake, and frankly, I would judge it a ‘great success’!

Now as you may imagine, a wedding cake is a fairly large undertaking and I absorbed an incredible amount of information while researching and preparing. Although I’ll obviously be posting the recipes, I’ve also included a bunch about wedding cakes more generally below – this is for the benefit of anyone who’s crazy enough to tackle this beast for the first time (though may not hold that much interest for the rest of you).

So… If you were to sit down and tell me you’d somehow been convinced to make a wedding cake and wondered if I had any tips, after ensuring you were in a lucid state of mind, this is what I’d recommend:

YOU TUBE: Oh YouTube… What would we do without you? Honestly, there are so many amazing videos out there that you can probably stop reading now… These were some of my faves:

  • Amanda Oakleaf taught me what a crumb coat was and how to ice with buttercream
  • Cookies, Cupcakes and Cardio has a three part series on the process, and though I wasn’t a fan of the icing job, Jen was pretty helpful
  • Epicurious has a handy video on stacking cakes (which I mention below as well)

TIMINGS: For your first cake, I would clear your schedule for the two days before the wedding (for example, if the wedding’s on a Saturday, I’d make sure you’re free on Thursday and Friday). You can use the first day to bake the cakes and the second day to make the fillings and ice them.

HOW BIG?: If you’re baking a wedding cake, you’ve probably been told how many people are attending the wedding (and if you haven’t, you’ll need to find out). This handy chart led me to decide on tiers that were 6″, 9″ and 12″ in diameter. There were 85 people at the wedding but I figured I’d definitely be safe with a cake that fed 100.

BatterHOW MUCH BATTER?: I’d tested my recipes a few times already so knew roughly how big the cakes were that they produced. Erring on the side of caution, I used a bit of simple arithmetic (good ol’ pi r squared) to figure out what I’d need to multiply each recipe by, and then added a bit extra on. After the cakes are baked, you cut them to size anyway, so if they’re a bit larger than necessary, it’s no big deal.

TRANSPORTATION AND SETUP: Find out what time the cake needs to be set up at the venue. I had my three tiers ready to go and in the fridge the night before, then took a cab down with them on the morning of. I left myself and hour and a half to get them sorted at the venue (bear in mind you’ll need to figure out where the cake is going, measure and cut your dowels, stack the cakes and then tidy up the icing). I probably only needed an hour and fifteen minutes, but then I really didn’t run into any obstacles.

StephenI’d also like to give a shout out to Stephen, my awesome Uber driver. He was super lovely, the smoothest driver ever, and more to the point, wore a three piece suit and a fedora. What a ledge.

BAKING THE CAKES: After speaking to a few of the bakers at work (insert plug for how awesome Bread Ahead is here) it was confirmed that baking each layer of each tier separately was the way forward (if you can imagine baking a single cake that’s six inches thick, you can probably imagine how it might not be the lightest or fluffiest). I had three tiers with three layers in each tier, so baked nine cakes in total.

INGREDIENTS: It turns out you need a lot of ingredients to make a cake this size. Sounds obvious, but don’t underestimate… It took me four trips to the supermarket on Violet (my bicycle) to get everything home, so make sure you factor this in. Even better, do an online shop and get everything delivered (or if you’re in a part of the world where everyone has a car, forget about this – you can just drive!).

SPECIAL WEDDING CAKE KIT: Along with ingredients, there is a lot of random stuff you need to make a wedding cake. You’ll be able to pick up some at your local supermarket, but for the more specialist baking kit, it’s far easier to order online (I used Windsor Craft). Bear in mind you’ll need to allow enough time to have your order processed and delivered, so best not to leave this to the last minute. Here’s a (definitely non-inclusive) list of stuff you’ll need to consider getting:

  • CAKE TINS: Make sure these have completely vertical sides. When it comes to icing, that’s definitely essential.
  • CAKE DRUMS/BOARDS: Something you may or may not be aware of is that each cake sits on a board before it’s placed on top of the next. For my bottom cake, which was of fairly epic proportions, I opted for a cake drum (these are usually about 12mm thick). For the medium and small tiers I went with double thick card which seemed to do the trick.
  • Cake with dowelsDOWELS: Wedding cakes are pretty darn substantial, not to mention heavy (my to-ing and fro-ing from the cab to the venue definitely doubled as my upper body workout for the day). As a result, most employ a few dowels (thin sticks of wood) stuck in the bottom layers of the cake to provide some extra architectural support for the upper layers. There are countless videos on YouTube, but this one gives you the gist. A lot will recommend sticking a dowel from the top of the middle tier, down through the base of the middle tier to the base of the bottom tier. My cake boards were just too sturdy to be punctured, so my dowels only ever went through one layer (however this worked fine).
  • PIPING BAGS AND NOZZLES: Piping bags come in these awesome rolls, which means if you buy a single roll, you’ll have more than enough. As for nozzles, buy whichever ones you’ll need for decorating (that is if you’re using buttercream like me).
  • POSY PICKS: If you’re planning on adorning your finished cake with flowers, you may be wondering how people stick the stems in without getting flower juice in the cake (yuck). Enter posy picks! I didn’t end up using flowers, but these would be a good shout if I did.
  • TURNTABLE: Sadly, not of the DJ-ing variety… I actually picked up one of these for a fiver from ASDA. They make life a load easier when you’re icing (essentially it means you can spin your cake round while keeping your tools in roughly the same place which is tres handy).
  • PALETTE KNIFE: I had a large unlevel one and a small one which I actually ended up using more. These are definitely necessary when it comes to getting straight sides on your tiers and a smooth finish on your icing (I also used one of these to put the texture on my icing).
  • CAKE LIFTER: Not essential but useful for sure. Your cakes will be on boards for most of the process, but it can at times be tricky to shift them.
  • Cake boardCAKE STAND: Cakes look better when they’re on an awesome stand, but it turns out the vast majority of these are horrendously overpriced, not actually all that nice, and I’m pretty sure you’d never use them again. I was quite proud of myself when I discovered that you could get a large slate ‘pizza board’ for a fraction of the price (mine was under £13 off ebay). Winner winner chicken dinner.
If you have questions about anything else, just leave a reply on my About page and I’ll get back to you (if not with an answer, at least with an amusing anecdote or a joke instead. Please note that ‘amusing’ is a subjective term).

Noirin’s crackle top molasses cookies

Molasses cookies - 1Our mothers are often the best cooks and bakers we know, and I can safely say mine is no exception to this rule. These cookies are one of my mom’s most famous and they always appear magically on the coffee table when tea is poured. They’re also great because they don’t require any exotic ingredients which means you can usually make them without having to venture to the shops.

What you’ll need

Molasses cookies - 22/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses/black treacle
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour/plain flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried ginger
About 1/3 cup granulated sugar

What to do

Using electric beaters, mix the oil, sugar, egg and treacle together in a large bowl. Next, add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger, and mix until combined.

Molasses cookies - 3At this point I found the dough was a bit less solid than usual (I think the British treacle might have slightly different properties to the Canadian molasses) so I popped it into the fridge for a couple of hours to firm up.

Once the dough is firm enough to roll into balls, preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F.

Pour the remaining 1/3 cup sugar into a small bowl. Roll the dough into tablespoon sized balls, then roll the balls in sugar and place 3 inches apart on greased cookie sheets.

Molasses cookies - 4Bake for 12-14 minutes, leave to cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then allow to cool completely on racks.

Enjoy alongside a cup of tea – these make exceptional dunkers!

Kate’s orange and cardamom rye bread knots (from the GBBO)

Rye rolls 10Along with bank holiday weekends, pitchers of Pimm’s, and weeknight barbecuing, August brings with it one other highly significant event: The Great British Bake Off. Week three was devoted to bread and saw the ten remaining contestant push the limits (worth paying tribute here to Norman’s experimentation with ‘exotic’ pesto. Legend.). As you may or may not be aware, selected recipes from the show are posted to the BBC website, so I thought I’d try my hand at Kate’s orange and cardamom rye bread knots. I’d never made a layered bread before, but it was good fun and the resulting rolls were far more interesting than the usual sort.

The only thing I might try differently the next time is crushing the cardamom seeds beforehand, as every now and then I’d find myself with an overly fragrant mouthful.

What you’ll need 

For the dark cardamom dough

2 tbsp black treacle (molasses to the North American audience)
30g dark muscovado sugar (I used light brown soft sugar)
150g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
150g dark rye flour
25 cardamom pods, seeds removed, pods discarded (I might try 20 crushed next time)
Rye rolls 51 tsp fast-action yeast
1 tsp flaked sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing

For the orange dough

2 oranges, zest and juice only
100g rye flour
200g strong white bread flour
1 tsp fast-action yeast
1 tsp flaked sea salt
1 tbsp white caster sugar
1 tbsp olive oil

For the glaze

1 orange, juice only
1 tbsp dark muscovado sugar (I used light brown soft sugar)

What to do

For the dark cardamom dough

In a small bowl, add the black treacle and dark muscovado sugar to 200ml of warm water. Stir until combined and set aside.

Next, in a large bowl, measure out the strong white bread flour and the dark rye flour. Add the cardamom seeds and the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Using one hand to mix the dough and the other to add the molasses liquid, pour about 3/4 of the liquid into the bowl and mix until combined. Add the tbsp of olive oil and as much of the remaining liquid as required to get a sticky dough.

Lightly grease your work surface (and hands) with olive oil, then turn the dough out and knead for 5-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to a large bowl, cover and place in a warm spot to prove for an hour (the dough should double in size).

Rye rolls 4For the orange dough

Put the orange juice and zest into a small measuring jug, then add warm water until you have a total volume of 200ml. Stir and set aside.

Next, in a large bowl, measure out the strong white bread flour and the dark rye flour. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Using one hand to mix the dough and the other to add the orange liquid, pour about 3/4 of the liquid into the bowl and mix until combined. Add the tbsp of olive oil and the caster sugar and continue to mix. Add as much of the remaining liquid as required to get a sticky dough.

Lightly grease your work surface (and hands) with olive oil, then turn the dough out and knead for 5-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to a large bowl, cover and place in a warm spot to prove for an hour (the dough should double in size).

For both doughs

Once proved, turn the cardamom dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back. Then, using a rolling pin, roll into a 20cm x 30cm rectangle. Slice in half lengthways (so that you have 2 10cm x 30cm rectangles). Repeat with the orange dough.

You should now have 4 long rectangles of dough. Brush the top of a cardamom rectangle with water then place an orange rectangle on top. Brush the top of this orange rectangle with water and place a cardamom rectangle on top. Repeat with the final orange rectangle.

Rye rolls 3Reshape the dough so that it maintains its neat rectangular shape, then slice into 12 even strips (each 10cm long).

Now, here comes the fun part – you’d need to call on your childhood play dough skills and roll each strip (like a worm) until it’s about 20cm long, then tie it in a knot. Place the knots on two baking trays covered with baking parchment. Cover with a bag or clingfilm and leave to prove for at least another hour or until the rolls have doubled in size.

For the glaze, you’ll need to bring the orange juice and dark muscovado sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has a glaze-like consistency. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/425°F, and 5 minutes before you’re ready to put the rolls in, preheat the baking sheets you’ll use (you should be able to slide the parchment with the rolls off them fairly easily). After 5 minutes, remove the sheets from the oven, transfer the rolls (with the parchment) to the trays, then pop them into the oven. Leave to bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the head to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F for a further 5-10 minutes or until the rolls sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack then brush with the glaze. Leave to cool.

Definitely try a couple after 5 or 10 minutes, while they’re still warm.
A generous lashing of butter, a cup of tea, and life seems pretty good…

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal raisin cookies 4When the weather’s wet and dreary, there are certain foods that just hit the spot. For me, a warm oatmeal raisin cookie (accompanied by a cold glass of milk) is pretty hard to beat. This recipe is based on Ina Garten’s – the cookies really manage to find that crunchy chewy balance, plus they’re quick, easy and there’s a good chance you’ll already have most of the ingredients in your cupboard.

What you’ll need

150g / 1 ½ cups pecans
180g / 1 ½ cups plain flour (all-purpose flour)
Oatmeal raisin cookies 31 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g / 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
200g / 1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
270g / 3 cups rolled oats (I prefer whole oats)
225g / 1 ½ cups raisins

What to do

Begin by preheating the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F.

Spread the pecans on a baking tray and pop into the oven for about 5 minutes until they’re gently toasted. Remove from the oven and set aside (keep the oven on). Once cool, chop roughly.

Next, in a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.

Oatmeal raisin cookies 2Then, in a large bowl using electric beaters, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. After this, add the vanilla and the eggs (one at a time).

Add your flour mixture slowly, and once combined, add the rolled oats. Finally toss in the raisins and pecans and give a final mix through.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, place on a baking sheet leaving them room to expand, and press down gently with the back of a fork. Bake for roughly 12 minutes or until golden brown. Leave to cool on the trays for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

“Test” a couple while they’re still warm and accompany with either a glass of cold milk or a warm cuppa.

Enjoy!

Many thanks to Ina Garten for her inspiration for this recipe.
You can find her original recipe in Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.
Copyright © 2008 by Ina Garten. Photographs copyright © 2008 by Quentin Bacon.
Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.
You can find Ina Garten’s bestselling cookbooks wherever books are sold.

Apple strudel extraordinaire

rsz_strudel_2So a little while back I caught wind of a syndicate of bakers in the Putney area who gathered monthly to share their wares. The group is known as the Putney Bake Club, and as far as I’m concerned it’s one of the best ideas I’ve come across in a while.
Each month the organisers choose a theme, and then on the assigned date everyone brings their baking (along with a guest if they’d like) and spends a lovely couple of hours chatting, drinking tea and, of course, eating plenty of baked goods. What could be better?
On this particular occasion, the Bake Club’s theme was ‘film-inspired’, so I chose to bake an apple strudel reminiscent of the one Landa tucks into in Inglorious Bastards. The recipe is based on Jamie Oliver’s but includes a couple of substitutions.

What you’ll need

rsz_strudel_15 small sweet eating apples
juice of ½ lemon
150g pecans, chopped
ground cinnamon
150g dark muscovado sugar
80g butter
4 large (or 8 smaller) sheets filo pastry
60g caster sugar
1 handful sultanas
icing sugar to dust
ice cream or custard to serve

What to do

Begin by preheating your oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F.

Then, to get started with your prep, you’ll need to peel and core your apples, and slice them thinly. Once sliced, transfer them to a large bowl filled with water and the lemon juice to keep them from going brown.

rsz_strudel_5Next, in a small bowl, mix the pecans, cinnamon and muscovado sugar, and set aside.

For the construction of your strudel, you’ll need to clear a bit of counter space an lay out a clean tea towel. Trim your filo pastry sheets so that they measure 30cmx50cm (if you’re using smaller sheets, you can use 2 sheets for each layer) and place your first sheet on the tea towel.

Melt your butter in a small pan (it may require some reheating during this process to keep it liquid-y) and brush the first layer of filo with butter. If you’re using two smaller sheets, you’ll be able to bind their connecting edges with a bit of water. Sprinkle a third of your pecan/cinnamon/muscovado mix over the sheet and repeat the process another two times, finally topping with the fourth sheet of filo.

rsz_strudel_3Drain your apples (getting rid of as much water as you can) and mix them in a large bowl with the caster sugar and sultanas. Transfer your apple mixture to the filo pastry, laying it in a strip down the long edge of the pastry. Brush the opposite (long) edge with water and you’re ready to roll (quite literally!).

Starting with the apple edge of the pastry, gently roll the strudel (like you would a swiss roll) using the towel to help you as you go. Once it’s completely rolled, press down the wet edge to seal the strudel. At this point you can also wet the two ends of the pastry and press them to seal. Transfer the strudel rather carefully to a baking sheet.

Pop it in the over for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Leave it to cool slightly on the baking sheet, then dust with icing sugar when you’re ready to serve. Slice the strudel and accompany with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or custard.

rsz_strudel_4
There was some pretty stiff (if friendly) competition for this rather rustic strudel at the Putney Bake Club…

I warn you, this isn’t the tidiest of desserts to serve and you’ll need to be prepared for a bit of crumbling and flaking, but that won’t stop it from being delicious!

Scrumptious sugar cookies

IMG_2257Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day or Hallowe’en, there are certain festive occasions that just cry out for a batch of colourful sugar cookies. I tested this recipe out over Hallowe’en and the results were great – the cookies were crisp on the outside while still a little bit soft and cake-y on the inside, and they held up perfectly with decorating.

Makes: 30-40 cookies

Time: 20 minutes to make the dough, at least 1 hour (preferably overnight) for chilling, 1 hour 15 minutes for cutting/baking

What you’ll needIMG_2208

3/4 cups (188g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

What to do

Begin by creaming the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue mixing until well combined. Then, add the flour, baking powder and salt (ensuring the baking powder and salt are mixed through evenly), and that’s it, you have your dough!

IMG_2206Chill the dough for at least an hour, or longer if you have the time (ideally overnight). The colder it is, the easier it will be to roll out.

Once you’re ready to get cookie cutting, turn the oven to to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F. On a floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out until it’s about 1/2cm thick. Use your cookie cutters to make your shapes, then transfer the cookies to baking sheets. Cook for about 7 minutes or until the cookies are just golden brown.

Leave them to cool on the baking sheets for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Decorating

Now for the fun part!IMG_2217

What you’ll need

500g royal icing sugar
water
food colouring of your choice

First things first, don’t begin decorating until your cookies are 100% cool.

To make your icing, you’ll need to employ a bit of trial and error to find the golden ratio of icing sugar, food colouring and water that will give you an icing that’s the right colour and consistency.

Mix these three ingredients together until you’re satisfied – for an icing that will cover the entire cookie, aim for a consistency similar to that that of custard. If you need to thicken your icing, add more icing sugar; if you need to make it runnier, add more water.

IMG_2221If you decide you want to pipe some detail onto your cookies or add a second base colour, you will need to make sure that the first spreading of icing is completely dry before you do. For piping and detail work, the icing should be a bit thicker and able to hold its shape once it’s on the cookie.

Otherwise, there’s really no limit on how creative you can be, so go for it! And remember, even if you botch the icing on a few of the cookies (as is bound to happen), they’ll still taste delicious.

French Apple Tart

IMG_1922Whenever I look into a bakery window, I find myself drawn to the apple tart. There’s something strangely hypnotic about the intricate overlapping of the apple slices (or else I simply have a weakness for baked apples and pastry), and I’m very rarely let down when I order a slice. I won’t lie, this particular tart requires a bit of time to make (so you’ll want to set an afternoon aside), but I assure you, the result is worth it and is guaranteed to impress even your harshest critics. The recipe is compliments of (who else but) Mary Berry, and her well placed hint of citrus brings out an entirely new level of flavour.

What you’ll need

For the pastry
250g (8oz) plain flour
125g (4oz) chilled butter, cubed
125g (4oz) caster sugar
4 egg yolks
IMG_1897**Mary’s recipe calls for an 11″ fluted flan tin, but I used a 12″ one. You’ll also need baking beans or rice/pasta.

For the filling
90g (3oz) butter
1.5kg (3lb) cooking apples, quartered, cored and cut into slices
3 tbsp water
6 tbsp apricot jam
125g (4oz) caster sugar
grated zest of 1 large lemon

For the topping and glaze
375g (12oz) eating apples, peeled, quartered, cored and sliced
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp caster sugar
6 tbsp apricot jam

What to do

For this recipe, the first thing to get cracking with is the pastry. In a large bowl, rub the flour and cubes of butter together with your fingertips until you have a mixture resembling fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the caster sugar, then add the yolks and a tbsp or so of cold water IMG_1890if required (that is if you’re having trouble bringing the mixture together into a dough). Once you’ve created a ball of dough, press it into a disc shape (this will make it easier to roll out), cover in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

While the pastry’s chilling, you can get started peeling, coring and chopping your apples. Once this hard work’s done, melt the butter in a large pan, add the apples and water, then cover and leave to simmer gently for 20-25 minutes or until the apples are very soft. Once soft, pass the apples through a nylon sieve into another saucepan, add the apricot jam, sugar and lemon zest, and cook on medium-high heat for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 190C/170Cfan/375F. By this point in time, your pastry should be properly chilled, so remove it from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured surface. Roll the IMG_1912pastry out until it’s large enough to cover your flan tin, then transfer to the tin. Make sure the pastry is pressed snugly into the pastry case in the corners and on the sides, then cover with foil or greaseproof paper and line with baking beans (or rice or dried pasta). Bake ‘blind’ for 10-15 minutes, then remove the foil and beans and continue to bake for a further 5 minutes. Leave to cool.

As you wait for your pastry and filling to cool, you’ll have time to peel and slice your eating apples. Once you’ve finished this, spoon the filling into the case and then arrange the apple slices on top. Brush the apples with lemon juice and sprinkle with caster sugar.  Bake the tart for 30-35 minutes until the apples are IMG_1934tender and their edges are brown (during this process, you’ll want to keep an eye on the apples – if they get too dark too early, lower the oven temperature slightly).

About 5 minutes before the tart’s due to come out of the oven, heat the apricot jam and pass through a sieve. Once the tart’s been taken out, brush the apples with the apricot jam, then leave to cool completely.

Serve either warm (with ice cream) or cold (with a cup of freshly brewed coffee) and pretend – just for a moment – you’re in Paris.

This recipe was taken from Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook.
For more Mary Berry inspiration, visit her facebook page and website.

Hot cross buns

IMG_1841Growing up, I was not a fan of hot cross buns. I was never quite comfortable with the prospect of consuming citrus peel (to this day I’m awfully wary of marmalade), and while I remember seeing the buns creep onto the shelves in late March each year, my interest stopped there. At the same time, I remember my mom being incredibly fond of the treats, so when I saw this recipe from the Fabulous Baker Brothers that called only for citrus rind, I figured they must be onto something. And I couldn’t have been more right!


What you’ll need

For the buns

IMG_1830680g strong white flour plus extra for dusting
14g (2 sachets) fast-action dried yeast
10g salt
100g golden caster sugar
80g soft unsalted butter
15g mixed spice
175ml whole milk (warm)
175ml water (warm)
1 egg
150g sultanas
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange

For the cross

100g strong white flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
25g butter, melted
125g water

For the bun wash

75mL boiling water
1tbsp caster sugar
pinch of mixed spice

What to do

IMG_1831For the buns

Combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, butter, mixed spice, milk, water and egg in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon, adding a couple of more tablespoons of water if you’re having trouble combining all of the dry ingredients. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured countertop and knead until smooth (this should take about 15 minutes).

Next, add the grated zest and sultanas to the dough and knead again until mixed through (this is slightly more easily said than done).

After giving the bowl a quick wash out, transfer the dough back to it, cover with a damp tea towel or plastic bag and leave to prove in a warm place for about 40 minutes or until it’s doubled in size.

In the meantime, line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Once the dough has risen, divide it in half, in half again and in half again until you’re left with 16 even pieces.

IMG_1832Using your hands, shape the pieces of dough into round balls and arrange on the baking sheet, if possible in rows. There should be about a finger’s width of space between them. Cover the trays again and leave in a warm place to prove for a further 40 minutes, or until they have doubled in size again.

Preheat the oven to 210ºC/fan190ºC/410ºF.

IMG_1839For the cross

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Using electric beaters or some vigorous wrist action, whisk in the butter and water until you have a smooth batter. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag (I don’t have one so used a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off instead).

Once you’ve removed the buns from the oven, cross the buns with the batter. If the buns are lined up in rows, you should be able to cross each row in one fell swoop.

Pop the buns in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they’re golden brown.

IMG_1841For the bun wash

While the buns are in the oven, mix the boiling water, sugar and mixed spice in a mug until dissolved and set aside.

Once the buns are ready, whip them out of the oven, and without losing any time, brush the bun wash over them all.

Leave to cool a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack. Otherwise, if you plan to enjoy them right away, get the butter ready and tuck in!

Many thanks to the Fabulous Baker Brothers for this delicious Easter recipe. View more great recipes from Hobbs House Bakery here.

Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin

IMG_1824An early episode of this year’s Bake Off required each competitor to present their own take on a Tarte Tatin to Mary and Paul. Ever since, I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making this wonderfully posh-sounding dessert, and when delicious. magazine adorned their cover with this mahogany-hued gem last October, the question of which recipe to follow was answered.

 


IMG_1815What you’ll need

8 small or 6 large Braeburn (or equally crisp) apples
200g golden caster sugar
50ml water
50g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
375g block of all-butter puff pastry (so I suppose we’re cheating a bit…)
plain flour for dusting

What to do
Begin by peeling, coring and halving your apples. Don’t worry if they start to brown a bit as   they will be smothered in caramel in the finished product.

IMG_1818Now ideally you’ll have an oven-proof frying pan (roughly 20cm across at its base) that you can use for all steps of this recipe, but if you’re short of stove and oven compatible containers (as I am), you can use a frying pan first and transfer everything to a casserole or pie dish part way through.

Add the golden caster sugar and water to the frying pan and, over low heat, stir until melted. Once melted, increase the heat, stop stirring and bubble for about 5 minutes or until the caramel is a rich brown colour.

IMG_1821Here, you’ll want to swirl the caramel around to prevent it burning, and don’t be afraid to cook the caramel until it’s a lovely dark colour. That said, if you suspect it’s about to go too far and pass into the realm of burnt, it’s useful to have a sink full of cold water at the ready to plunge your pan into to stop the cooking process.

As soon as you’re happy with the colour of the caramel, remove it from the heat and immediately stir in the butter and salt (you’ll be able to expect a bit of foaming activity here). Arrange the apples in the pan, round side down, and fill in the gaps with smaller slices of apple. Return the pan to the heat and cook for a further 5 minutes on low heat.

IMG_1822If you’re not using an oven-proof pan, now’s the time you’ll have to do a bit of juggling. Carefully remove the apples from the pan, transfer the caramel to a round casserole or pie dish (20cm in diameter at the bottom), then re-arrange the apples in the new dish. Following this (in either scenario), leave the apples and caramel to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/fan200ºC/430ºF.

Roll your pastry out on a floured surface until it’s 2-3mm thick (roughly the thickness of a pound coin). Using a plate or lid (or anything you can find that’s very slightly larger than your pan) as a guide, trace and cut your pastry into a large circle. Transfer the pastry onto your pan and tuck the edges into the side between the apples and the edge.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is a lovely golden brown. Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate.

I served mine with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it went down a treat!

IMG_1823

Many thanks to delicious. for this lovely recipe.
View more great recipes from delicious. here.